Bulls stay alive, beat GSU again in softball regionals
Softball season nearly ended for the University of South Florida on Saturday night.
Lindsey Richardson intervened and made sure the Bulls would take the field at least one more time in her senior season.
The Bulls were on the brink of elimination, tied 1-1 with Georgia Southern in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded and only one out when USF coach Ken Eriksen decided to pull pitcher Sara Nevins and put Richardson back into the game.
If Richardson allowed a runner to reach base in any way, the season was over. A deep fly ball could've scored the runner from third, ending the game.
Richardson didn't want her career to end that way.
"I'm a senior, so I'm not going say I wasn't like, 'This cannot be it,'" Richardson said. "I was pretty confident in everyone behind me and I was pretty confident if I did my job, (we would get out of the jam.)"
Richardson rose to the occasion, striking out her first batter and getting an inning-ending groundout to prolong the game.
Inserting Richardson into a tough spot was an easy decision for Eriksen.
"We've got Mariano Rivera in the bullpen this year," he said. "Last year, we didn't have Lindsey as sharp as she is now. Lindsey's got a lot of heart. ... She's been the person that's been our stopper this year. There was no hesitation going into that situation."
With momentum on its side, USF pushed for a run and succeeded in the top of the ninth inning.
Second baseman Dani Wayt singled into left field with one out and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Eriksen then called for Wayt to steal third base. As she approached third, the throw from Georgia Southern catcher A.J. Hamilton sailed into left field, allowing Wayt to get up and go home.
"I heard Coach tell me to go, and then when I was almost (at home), he said, 'Hurry,'" Wayt said. "I had no idea where the throw was. I was just sliding in and I heard Coach, so I went."
USF (45-15) faces the task of beating No. 2 Florida (54-7) twice Sunday to avoid elimination. The Gators need only to beat USF once to advance to the Super Regionals.
The Bulls are 0-3 against the Gators this year, including an 11-1 thrashing earlier Saturday.
Florida's Lauren Haeger tied a UF school record with seven RBIs in a 2-for-2 outing as the Gators easily brushed the Bulls aside.
"We have to play flawless softball against the No. 2 team in the country," Eriksen said. "There's a reason they're No. 2. They're a great team."
The situation was reversed last year, with the Bulls needing only one Sunday win against Florida last year. They got that win and eventually advanced the program's first Women's College World Series.